The Improv Life: How Improv Saved Me

The Improv Life: How Improv Saved Me

Why haven’t I quit? I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll just slowly devolve into a bitter hack who laments his lost youth on a wasted dream as he smokes cheap cigarettes and store brand label whiskey in the patio of some forgotten LA dive bar where no one knows your name.

Who am I kidding. I love this too much to walk away. I did an improv show once at the Improv Collective for like five people, and it was one of the best improv shows I ever done.

I still remember it. Not that it felt particularly special when I was doing it, but looking back, man, that was a special show.

I got to bust out a Val Kilmer impression, y’all! Val freaking Kilmer! My Batman by an accident of birth! And it was stupid and dumb yet sublime at the same time. If your improv can fill the Venn Diagram of those three, then you got something good!

I did an Oscar Winning Moment where I played an alcoholic father who wasn’t getting enough shifts at CPK (California Pizza Kitchen). And my scene partners, Sam and Teresa, made me look like a million bucks.

This one dude laughed so hard at the moment, he was still laughing like 5 minutes later. That one dude’s laugh was enough praise that I’ve held onto it for years now. Sometimes I’ll pull out the memory out of the box I keep in my place of good feelings and remember that I was on my A-game for one night.

I mean, I didn’t know it was going to be a special night. I was at a weird place in life where I couldn’t appreciate what was in front of me because I was just fucking lost. Improv got me through those lost days where it felt like my best days were behind me, not realizing that these were some of the days I would cherish forever.

Life happens fast, y’all. Do what you want to do now because one day you’ll look back at now and realize this was a magical time.

One more to go. See you tomorrow,

Fernando

#improv #ocimprov #improvcollective #memory #goodtimes #heart #saved #life #lost #bryanadams #found #magic

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The Improv Life: Everything’s Changed, Nothing’s Changed

The Improv Life: Everything’s Changed, Nothing’s Changed

We used to do shows in Downtown Santa Ana when I first started.

Those shows were special to me because performing in my home town was validation that I was on the right path.

I would ask my work if I could get off early in order to make it on time.

I’d then go to Starbucks, get some coffee, and get in the zone.

Nothing else mattered. My entire week was building up to this moment. We’d then do the show, win, lose, or draw, and then it was over. But I just wanted to be back on stage. The cycle would start over as I waited to be booked.

There would be jams, practices, dinners, whatevs. We did improv wherever they would have us. LA was close, but the cultural distance made it seem a galaxy away.

We were hunter gatherers learning how to kill our food in the parking lots, cafe patios, and random community college spaces of Orange County.

We were our own teachers because that’s just how it was. An exciting time, a time of growth and exploration, a time that would impact us forever.

But doing a show, man. That’s what it’s about. And that’s still what’s it about. Doing a show is the end-all and be-all of this art form for many of us. I know that’s a controversial statement for some, but there’s a different feeling to doing improv in a living room with your team as compared to doing a live show with your friends in front of a packed theater.

The audience, man, we need them. The energy they give us affects how we perform, and this exchange of energy is what makes performing live one of the best experiences on Earth – you’ll get the highest high performing at your peak in front of an engaged audience hanging on to everything you do.

All these years, so much has changed, but the core things remain the same, and that’s why I stay in this amazing game.

#improv #performer #show #theater #dtsa #validation #artist

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The Improv Life: I Miss Going to Canter’s After Shows

This Pastrami Rueben was amazing.

The Improv Life: I Miss Going to Canter’s After Shows

That post show come down is a doozy, man.

The better the show, the hotter the crowd, the tighter the set, the bigger the high.

It’s like you got energy for days.

Like I don’t need to do drugs because I do shows. The high of a great show is unmatched by anything else.

I want to say it’s adrenaline, but if I was an adrenaline junkie I would put myself in unnecessary dangerous situations just for a whiff of a high.

Nah, man, the stage is its own drug. When you’re in a fire improv set in front of a packed house, or your sketch is landing with the audience exactly how you wanted it to, or you’re doing some crazy clown bit that is pushing your limits and the crowd is with you every single step of the way, you’ll feel higher than you’ve ever been.

So how do you cool down? Well, me, I’m going to a diner* with some friends (or sometimes solo).

*For the purpose of this essay I consider Del Taco a diner.

I’m going to sit down, order some coffee, get some good food, and chat with some buds.

And one of my favorite places to do that is the world famous Canter’s Deli in Hollywood. My good friend from Cal, Alan J. Miller, introduced me to Canter’s just before I started going to LA to do comedy.

We saw a great show at UCB Franklin with his cousin, and then we went to Canter’s, and I loved it. Place just radiated good vibes with it’s awesome food and stuck-in-a-time-capsule ambiance.

I didn’t know it then, But Alan was introducing me to a place I would fall in love with. Once I started coming up to LA more to do shows, especially at the Pack Theater, Canter’s became a frequent stop. I even got my OC team to go with me once, and it was amazing.

Not going to Canter’s for over a year and a half was hard because of a). The amazing food, company, and ambiance, and b). I didn’t have a reason to go because I wasn’t doing shows, and that broke my heart.

I just want to get back to a place where performing in LA every week is normal, with the occasional visit to Canter’s peppered in to cap a great night of LA comedy.

#improv #sketch #food #losangeles #canters #pastramiruben #show #performer #theater #packtheater

Love you Canter’s.
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The Improv Life: The Biggest Benefits of Keeping an Improv Blog

The Improv Life: The Biggest Benefits of Keeping an Improv Blog

I’ve been blogging about my improv journey for almost 7 years. Here’s what I’ve learned after all that time.

1. I’d be lying if I remember every improv show, every set. What I remember most are moments and lessons – this blog is a way to record those moments and lessons.

2. You can be really affected by a class, show, or lesson, but it’s easy to forget it. Insights are transient. They arrive, blow your mind, and then they’re gone.

2a. Writing them down will make sure you retain some part of it.

2b. Plus, you can share your insights with the larger community and put some good out there.

2c. General rule for putting good out there: just do it, then do it again when you can, and repeat. Under no circumstances expect anything in return.

2d. Also, my insights are valid. Not saying they’re all game changers, but imposter syndrome will trick you into thinking that your experience has nothing of value to share with the world.

2e. My experience has value, so does yours.

3. Besides blogging about my insights, I also write about my journey.

3a. The specific is the universal. Meaning, I hope you can relate to parts of my highly specified, very personal journey.

3b. The more personal, the more people can connect to it. (That’s a rule applicable to most writing).

4. There are things in this journey that surround improv, things that happen off stage – rehearsals, team dinners, karaoke nights, driving up to the Clubhouse with Frankie Estrella, doing bits and talking wrestling the whole time. These and more are part of the journey, and they leave me affected, my art as well. It’s all connected I guess.

5. This blog, therefore, is a notebook to jot down my insights before I lose them, and a journal to archive important moments of my journey.

6. Basically, this blog is for me, to chronicle my journey, where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and what I’ve learned.

6a. That’s a great reason to start a blog.

7. I encourage you to chronicle your journey as well.

See you next time,

Fernando

#improv #impro #writer #lessons #notebook #journal #diary #insights #teacher #director #wisdim

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The Improv Life Ep.9 with David Escobedo – Fernando’s Improv Podcast

Lots of insights and revelations in this episode. It’s a good one! Check it out!

The Improv Life Ep.9 with David Escobedo

Welcome to Episode 9 of the Improv Life Podcast 

Man, today I had a very special guest. Literally, one of my favorite people in the whole world – David Escobedo, global improviser. Also, this was my first international podcast as David is in England!

Me and David go a ways back since we were both producers for Spectacles Improv Engine, a now defunct theater in Orange County, CA, USA. David and I produced a show called Ladies and Gentlemen, and ever since then I’ve been in awe of the guy. 

David is simply amazing. David is on the front lines of the global improv movement. He’s connecting with improvisers from all over the world, connecting with them and collaborating with them, discovering new ways to play and work with another. 

His Facebook page, The Improv Boost, is one of the most active and visited Facebook pages for improvisers across the world. David is a community builder, and The Improv Boost is proof of that. 

In this podcast, we talk about his improv journey, his recent experiences in the UK Improv Scene, his most recent insights and revelations, and much more.

Listen on SoundCloud

Here’s What We Talked About

  • Why it’s nice to have your name pronounced correctly 
  • The Mexican Food in England and where the good spots are
  • David’s experience as a Mexican-American man from San Diego in England
  • How there is a lack of awareness of Mexican culture in England, and how this ignorance causes people in the UK to celebrate Mexican culture with the things they know about it, which unfortunately are stereotypes, and how David has to educate people about his culture
  • David’s journey to becoming a global improviser
  • How David walking away from a theater that did not give him back the love he was pouring into it may have been one of the best things he’s ever done
  • Why he started The Improv Boost, and that by starting The Improv Boost he has transcended whatever box or finite boundaries a singular improv theater may have wanted to confine him to
  • Powerful quote: “When they mean family, they mean kingdom.” – Me, reflecting on David’s idea of theaters weaponizing the idea of family to keep students in line. 
  • David’s experience in arriving to the England Improv Scene and how it was five years behind the American Scene in terms of some of the community standards of holding people accountable and dealing with toxic leaders and their “petty empires.” 
  • Powerful quote: “It’s so important for people to realize that their journey in improv is not as someone’s student, but as their own journey in improv.” – David talking about why it’s important for people to study with a lot of people and focus on their development as an improviser, not as a disciple of a specific teacher or identifying with a certain community 
  • David’s encounter with tribalism in the UK Improv Scene and how he combatted it 
  • How the sense of classicism is different in England and how that affects how improv teams and communities develop
  • David leading by example in England and showing other groups how they can work together to elevate each other
  • How the British Improv Scene is developing independent of influence from the American Scene
  • How the Keith Johnstone school of improv is more prevalent in England and how that’s influenced the style over there 
  • How David’s experience in England has opened up his eyes to new ways to doing improv 
  • Individuality vs. Dividuality = Western culture vs Eastern culture 
  • Dividuality – your actions affect a larger community 
  • “Status is expressed how we treat other people” – David Escobedo 
  • You can’t learn to be more creative; you’re just as creative as you are. But you can unlearn to be uncreative – David echoing Keith Johnstone 
  • How people seek gurus but how they should be their own leader 
  • Some of the turnoffs David experienced while studying at some of the big LA improv schools 
  • How David to learn improv on his own, and reflecting on how he could create space for others 
  • The pitfalls of teaching, coaching, and directing 
  • The kind of teachers you should avoid at all costs 
  • The relationship between skills and community, and how Gurus sell one more than the other but how you have to have both 
  • How the UK improv scene is beginning to have conversations about boundaries as being inspired by the Me Too movement that happened in the US and forced improv theaters to have conversations about sexual harassment and create policies to combat it and create safe and inclusive spaces
  • Key quote – “You can have vulnerability without having boundaries” – Brené Brown 
  • How England’s long history and tradition creates a conservative environment that makes it hard to have open and direct conversations about difficult topics like sexism and racism 
  • Key quote – “Allow yourself to suck at something new…in the risk is where the genius happens” – David Escobedo
  • How Americans have to have more humility about our improv and how we relate to the global improv scene 
  • David’s overall experience in the UK, how it is being an American in the UK and having to explain America’s politics to UK folk, and the next parts of his journey 

It was awesome having David on the show, and I can’t wait to see where his journey takes him. Thank you for being on the show, brother! 

Resources 

Here are some of the different Facebook pages David mentioned at the end of the show. Check them out! 

The Art of Yes – [From the Facebook Page] “Welcome to The Art of Yes! Our goal is to inspire others, share knowledge, and provide a forum for asking questions about improvisational theater (otherwise known as improv). All posts will be moderated, and we kindly ask you to refrain from advertising any shows or local events. We encourage you to invite friends, family, coworkers, basically anyone who is or may be interested in improv, to join the community. Hope you enjoy reading the Art of Yes as much as we enjoy creating it!” 

Today Improv – [From the Facebook Page] “Today Improv is a Los Angeles based company teaching improv for actors, improv for business and improv for everyone else. Change your life”

Improv MKE [From their website] – “What if you opened an improv theater and school that brought teachers from all over the country and the world who can teach others some of the things you’ve learned over the years and continue to learn yourself? That’s what Improv MKE LLC is all about! The organization is designed to create access, both in-person and online, for people to have fun, learn, grow, and play together in ways they never thought possible! Thanks for coming by. We hope you stay to play with us. YES AND, we also do corporate stuff! Entertainment, workshops, and custom-created programs and training are available! We do it ALL!! Mainly because Michelle is no longer a baby, and has a team.”

The Black Improv Alliance – [From the Facebook Page] “The Black Improv Alliance provides a space for improvisers of African descent to build worlds and tell their authentic stories unapologetically! We are committed to dismantling white supremacy in improv, one scene at a time.”

Thank You for Listening

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